Monday, July 30, 2012

Self-pub vs Traditional Pub series #2: KALLYPSO MASTERS' opinions and Advice

**note from Bianca Sommerland: Some of you know that I considered self-publishing for a long time before actually doing it. I was afraid I didn't have what it took to make it alone. Kallypso Masters gave me wonderful advice and support. She has given me permission to share her words on the subject from a recent conversation. I'm adding her links and such myself because if you haven't read her books, you should! <g>**

Kallypso Masters:

Free from Amazon and other distributors

No disrespect to anyone who wants a publisher or is just starting to write, because there are things they can teach you that you need to know. But I spent 20 years learning those things in RWA and classes. I'm still learning, of course, with each new editor and beta reader I work with, but I've said before, I'm very Domme about my books and my career. I'd have probably been urged to conform with the publisher's rules so i didn't do anything risky or too terribly different.

I also needed to make a living FAST. Remember, I quit my job and THEN started writing Masters at Arms. I don't do things normally. So, I had one year to make it. I didn't have time to wait for validation. I knew I'd learned the craft and was ready to see what readers thought. So I hired a content editor and had a graphic artist friend do my professional covers.

Best decision FOR ME. If I'd sold with a publishing house as well as I did on my own, I estimate I'd have lost 70-80% of my income and would have been job hunting now, not writing full-time.

Please mention in your blog that 40% royalties on ebooks does not mean 40% of list price. The publisher gets 60-70% of list and THEN calculates your 40% from that. Many also take out fees for services and I've heard from authors that have since gone indie that they wound up with 11-19% of list price.

That's obscene and my big beef with publishers. They tout how they take care of all those big bad details like editing and covers, but then you have to keep paying for those one-time services thru the nose as long as they continue to sell your book. As I said above, some even deduct charges for those from your royalties!

For my first three books, granted with some discounts, I paid $2000 for the editor and $200 for the covers. With book 4, I'll pay $1700 for those two team members alone and $60 more for the formatter who will help take care of that detail I hate.

So to date, a publisher would have gotten at least $80000 of my proceeds, and more as time went on. If I had just sat back and let them take charge, I know I would not have sold 65000 books in 11 months, because I'd probably still be waiting for my first or second royalty check because of how long it takes them to accept and release a book.

I don't see that they would have promoted me nearly as well as I've promoted myself. ALL authors nowadays have to promote themselves. Even the Big 6 NY publishers have gotten lame in that area, unless you're a megastar like Nora Roberts or something.

Again, writers had better make sure they are ready first and not skip over all the years it takes to prepare themselves and learn this craft. It is too easy to publish your own work, without even getting it edited professionally.

I also know there are talented authors who prefer continuing on with a publisher because the thought of handling those few, but mega important, details is more bother than they want. Perhaps they still have day jobs and just want to focus on their writing. (Of course, they are losing so much of their income to the publisher and could possibly ditch the day job if they also ditched the publisher and went indie.) maybe they think the publisher is going to promote them and they don't want to do that themselves. (Talk about shooting themselves in the foot!)

Your suggestion of going with multiple publishers with or without going indie is also a good thing. Not all publishers are created equal. Ask their authors what they think before you sign. Don't focus on their stars, tho. Ask the ones whose books aren't at the top of the best seller lists, because that's where most writers start out.

Bottom line, it's a personal decision each author needs to make. I'm glad it has worked out for you, Bianca! You're a talented writer and you engage really well with readers (you big tease!) so I knew you'd do well as an indie. It's the ones who do nothing but promote themselves who turn readers off, but it is probably those who come across as real people and who put themselves out there on social media every day who do best at winning the hearts and minds of readers. Just my opinion, of course.

But indies also have to publish better books than those put out by publishers. You have to be different and suck readers in so they don't want to leave the world you've created. I write very emotional stories that aren't for everyone, but those who want to laugh, cry, and scream as they read will keep coming back for more, because I'm a big tease too! And they get addicted to the Masters at Arms Doms really quickly. My job is to keep providing a fix--and I'm late with the latest!

Gawd, I can't believe I typed this on my iPhone! But I'm very passionate about this! :)

I agree, self-publishing is NOT for everyone. New writers or those still learning the craft of writing should join writers groups, network, and find critique partners, because if you can't write a good story, even the publishers aren't going to take the time to nurture you along. I did this for about 20 years, off and on. (Possibly five years of dedicated RWA membership, meetings, conferences, etc., back in the 1990s.) I have eight manuscripts in various states of completion that I practiced on over those 20 years. You will NOT see me upload crap like that for readers to see, much less buy. I don't know many authors whose first attempts at writing novels were great reads. THAT's the problem with the ease of self-publishing. Too many writers see figures like those I shared and think that's going to happen to them. Heck, when I was trying to decide whether to self-pub, I was seeing what Bella Andre was making. Wow! I wanna be her when I grow up! And I know at least a handful of writers doing self-pubbing in this group who are making much more with their self-pubs than their publishers, even if they aren't as vocal as I am. But it's hard to determine if the publishers at least helped them find an audience.

I respectfully disagree with advice about going traditional first for those who DO know the business already, as I did. I had done my homework and I knew what I needed to do to succeed. I also had a RWA chapter mate who presented on going indie just when I needed to make the decision whether I submit to Samhain again and wait around (time I didn't have), or take the risk and go indie. I'm a risk taker AND I had a retirement nest egg that was supposed to be left untouched until I was at least 65 that I convinced my hubby to "invest" in me. So, I had 7 months to do nothing but write and get three books published. Three is the magic number for success, it seems.

(Names removed) and others are absolutely right if their assessment of themselves and their circumstances told them to go with a publisher for the support net and taking care of expenses they couldn't afford to cover at the time. Indies have to create their own support network. I am part of the Kentucky Independent Writers group (with lots of former and current RWA members tired of being second-class citizens in that organization), the online Indie Romance Ink group on Yahoo Groups, and I read blogs and network with other indie authors online. Of course, being with a publisher offers no guarantees either. Figuring out what readers want is a full-time job in and of itself.

So sometimes the publishers do have to eat the costs of the books that don't sell well and hope someone else in their house will help make ends meet. But I'm with Bianca Sommerland--it's all about the money. First off, getting $28 out of $70 made kinda sucks, but what IF the author's book made $5,000 from distributors in one month. I wouldn't want to be the author having to subsidize the others in the house who weren't selling as well. (Maybe that's selfish. I know publishers where everyone works together to promote each other's books and it just makes me tired to think of doing all the reading, reviewing, and pimping necessary to keep up. I'd never get any writing done. So, it's a control thing.)

Of course, I know a lot of indies AND writers with publishers who won't make $5000 in a year, much less a month. Whether it's because of the quality of the writing, the genre they in, the marketing they do or don't do (remember, all authors have to market themselves without appearing to be self-promoting all the time, because then they turn people off). Maybe it was a great book that just didn't catch on. If the publisher sticks with them through their third book (or the indie keeps writing and publishes a third book), chances are things will improve. If all I had done in that first year was publish Masters at Arms, I wouldn't be making a living at writing. It wasn't until Nobody's Hero (#3) came out that my sales went into 5-digit royalties the following month.

Here's Kristen Lamb's blog about five mistakes self-pubs make. I don't agree on all the points, but overall she has some excellent points.

I'm glad to hear there are some publishers who do right by their writers and that there are authors happy with their publishers. Too often over the last 20 years, though, I've heard the horror stories with publishers, which probably is part of what made it easier for me to go indie with no regrets.

I'd like to thank Kallypso Masters for sharing her experiences with us. For more about her journey, or info about her books--along with some seriously hot teasing, please visit: Ahh, Kallypso . . . the stories you tell. 

For #1 in the Self-Pub vs Traditional Pub series, please visit: Self-pub vs Traditional Pub series #1

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